November 14, 2018 / 8:09 PM / a year ago

Qatar welcomes Twitter crackdown on bots used to attack country online

The Twitter application is seen on a phone screen August 3, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White

DOHA (Reuters) - Qatar said on Wednesday it welcomed a recent drive by Twitter to remove millions of automated spam bots from its website, many of which it said were being used to attack it amid a protracted dispute with its neighbors.

Online attacks against the small Gulf state have surged since Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt launched a trade and diplomatic boycott against Qatar in June 2017.

“Qatar recognizes that many of Twitter’s efforts (to remove the more than 8-10 million fake accounts a week) have helped remove some of the weaponized propaganda and hate speech spread against our nation during the current blockade,” Qatar’s government communications office said in a statement.

Automated bot accounts flooded social media last month, with many of them promoting messages which supported Saudi Arabia and cast doubt on allegations that the kingdom was involved in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Twitter has since said that it has removed large numbers of accounts for breaching its terms of use in recent weeks, many of them originating from the Gulf region.

Reporting by Eric Knecht; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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